Cameron Rosser laughed off the text the first day he got it.
It was 2012, and Rosser, a Kansas student living in Naismith Hall, was getting bugged by his cousin Sean Miller. The messages continued the next day.
“You really should try out for football,” Miller texted him. “You’d probably make the team.”
Rosser, after spending a year on KU’s campus working on his finance degree, finally relented. He was having fun as a student, but there were still times when he was bored and believed he was missing out on part of the college experience.
“I was like, ‘All right,’ ” Rosser said. “ ‘I’ll try out just for him.’ ”
It ended up being one of the best decisions of his life.
Four seasons later, Rosser is on his second year of earning a scholarship for Kansas football, and he also is coming off his best game: a three-sack, four-tackle-for-loss effort in the Jayhawks’ 24-23 loss to TCU last Saturday.
His journey has an even crazier element to it: When Rosser showed up for that 2013KU football walk-on tryout, he did so without having played a single snap of football in high school.
“I think I was just big and sort of fast and wasn’t falling over,” Rosser said. “I could run around and stuff. I looked like a pretty good athlete, so they could kind of work with me.”
The reasons for Rosser not playing football in high school varied. For one, he entered ninth grade at 5 foot 4, with football coaches at Beverly Hills High School in Los Angeles not looking at him as a potential prospect or knowing he’d eventually get to 6 foot 1.
Rosser also switched high schools his second semester as a junior, and because of transfer rules, he was not allowed to participate in athletics for a full year. That meant he wasn’t able to play football for Silverado High in Las Vegas, though he was able to start in center field for the baseball team while continuing to play his favorite sport.
When he arrived at KU, he contacted baseball coach Ritch Price, only to learn the team’s roster was already full. The second option was football, and he received the good news that he’d made the team from former KU assistant coach Scott Vestal.
“You could see he had a good frame. He could move around,” said Vestal, who is now with Maryland’s coaching staff. “The thing is, the kid struck me as a very dialed-in guy. Usually those kind of guys pay attention to details a little bit better.
“I remember coach (Charlie) Weis went around the room and said, ‘Hey Vestal, who should we keep?’ Cameron was certainly one of those guys at the top of the list.”
There still was a learning curve. Rosser figured out how to put on football pads by observing teammates and mimicking them. He also realized quickly that the sport was much different from baseball.
“When I first walked into the locker room, it was weird, because I’ve never seen dudes that big in my life,” Rosser said. “I remember having a corner with (defensive tackle) Keba Agostinho. He was huge. I was like, ‘Whoa, this is what college football is about. I’ve got to get big like him.’ ”
Rosser devoted himself to getting stronger. He gained 25 pounds over the next four years and eventually worked his way to a special-teams regular last season while also earning a scholarship.
His biggest breakthrough came in the spring practices, as he started to feel more confident while playing defense. Linebackers coach Todd Bradford noticed as well, complimenting Rosser often for his progress.
“We knew that he had a chance,” KU coach David Beaty said. “He really was always around the ball. He was causing problems.”
That turned into production last Saturday, as Rosser was utilized as a stand-up pass-rusher in defensive coordinator Clint Bowen’s scheme.
“Those plays all came to me,” Rosser said. “I just made them.”
The texts from Miller are different now. Oftentimes after games, Rosser will pick up his phone and see messages like, “You’re ballin’!” along with other words of encouragement.
After previously only playing the sport during flag-football games in middle school, Rosser is glad he didn’t ignore his cousin’s advice four years ago.
“I just live the now, try to focus on the next game,” Rosser said. “Maybe when it’s all done, I’ll probably think about it like, ‘It’s a pretty cool story.’ ”
Kansas at No. 11 Baylor
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas
TV: Fox Sports 1
Other story lines
BRINGING THE HEAT: Though Lawrence has experienced autumn-like temperatures in the last week, the Jayhawks will be traveling to a place where it will feel more like summer. Weather forecasts call for a high around 90 degrees in Waco on Saturday, and with the humidity added in, the heat index could make it above 100 degrees during the game. Fatigue could especially be a factor for KU’s defense, which is short-handed because of injuries and also going against a Baylor offense that loves to play fast.
ALMOST A JAYHAWK: Baylor senior quarterback Seth Russell has plenty of ties to Kansas and also KU coach David Beaty. Russell, who was born in Beaty’s hometown of Garland, Texas, originally committed to KU in the summer of 2011 when Beaty, as an assistant under Turner Gill, was recruiting Russell. Once Gill was fired as head coach, Russell decommitted after new coach Charlie Weis elected to bring in transfer quarterbacks Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps. Russell ranks sixth in the Big 12 in passing yards per game (265) while throwing 14 touchdowns with four interceptions.
TWICE THE HAVOC: KU has had the nation’s biggest turnaround when it comes to the tackles-for-loss stat. The Jayhawks, who averaged 4.8 TFLs last year, have doubled that production to 9.6 this year (fourth nationally). In fact, if KU is able to get 10 TFLs against Baylor on Saturday, it will match 2015’s entire season total (58) in six fewer games.